Saturday, August 27, 2011


In all my novels, I have heroes and villains and strong plots. In my latest mystery, Whirlwind, Hugh Robicheaux is an unscrupulous, wealthy and powerful, horseman modeled after owners and trainers from a 1980's scandal that rocked the hunter/jumper world. Often, however, my villain is nature as in Anna's Blizzard and Emma's River. Lately, weather/nature have been in the news: earthguakes, floods, drought, fires, and tornadoes have devastating consequences for humans, animals and the economy. Today, here along the East Coast, Hurricane Irene is the villain. People are evacuating by the millions, and I hope they are planning for the safety and care of their animals as well, but I know that in cases of emergencies, that is not always possible. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina left many animals stranded and homeless.

I hope to never have to experience first hand nature at its worst. I am content to research blizzards and floods and turn them into exciting stories full of mystery and mayhem. On a lighter note, nature and weather are villains in my own backyard. I love to garden on a small scale, and this year I have to boast about my peaches. I battled drought, fungus, stink bugs and rot to harvest about 100 perfect peaches that I gave as thank you gifts to friends who have mowed walking paths and helped babysit my dog and 900 delicious but ugly peaches that made yummy jam, cobblers and pies. Okay, compared to Hurricane Irene, this is nothing. But for me it was success.

Drought was also a problem in VA, the lack of rain turning pastures and crops from lush to brown. One commenter on FBook said that hay shortages due to the drought have caused severe problems in Texas for horse and cattle owners. And of course flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers ruined towns and farmland. Here in VA my villains such as horse flies, burrowing bees, Japanese beetles and squash bugs are more like annoying secondary characters. Bots are showing up in irritating numbers, depositing their eggs on my horse's legs, but they are certainly no emergency. I am thankful that my villains so far have been ones that I, a not so brave heroine, can manage. .

I would love to hear from readers who have had to deal with nature/weather-related animal issues--large and small. (After all, all of us who own horses have to deal with bots.) What were the problems? How did you plan? How did you cope?


Laura Crum said...

Well, Alison, the biggest natural disaster I coped with was a 7.2 earthquake here is Santa Cruz County. At the time I was in charge of my uncle's horse ranch (20 or so horses) as he was out of town. It was a challenge as the power went out right away--so the well wouldn't pump--for ten days. I used the nearby creek to water the horses, which was a bit complicated logistically. But everybody survived just fine.

Alison said...

Wow. That made our 5.8 seem like a bump in the road. I bet your arm/shoulder muscles were ripped by the time you were finished hauling all that water.

Dreaming said...

Did I ever tell you how much I loved Anna's Blizzard?! Nasty villain, that one!
And the Texas hay shortage has now become a Colorado hay shortage. Texans are coming here to buy our hay. Prices have sky rocketed... if you can even find hay in small bales!
Knock on wood, the worst natural villain I've encountered was a late snow storm that put a huge drift between me and the barn. On my first trip down to the barn I literally had to crawl through the snow. Later, I tried out my horseshoes... ya know? They work!

Once Upon an Equine said...

I need to read Anna's Blizzard because in my neck of the woods, the biggest weather challenge is blizzards. Fire is a concern in the summer, but not a certain event. Blizzards and very bad snow storms with -15F to -25F temps are a given in winter. I prepare by buying a year's worth of hay in the summer. Like Dreaming said, this was a tough year for hay in Colorado (due to weather). The yield was low and hay prices high. It hurt my pocket book, but the feeling of having a barn full of hay, and knowing I can keep the equine tummy fires burning during the most bitter nights, is priceless.

Alison said...

Dreaming and Once Upon an Equine,

In VA two years ago, we had about three weeks of snow and blizzards so I know what you guys are going through with horses. What I can't imagine is dealing with the possibility of blizzard-conditions all winter. I use ice-grippers on my boots here which has saved my butt many times. I hope this year winter will be mild! And I am glad barns are full of hay. Good luck and enjoy the upcoming fall weather.